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Almost Fall….

Okay….it's been a while, I know!!!!! I have been very busy! Of lately I have been doing alterations, canning preserves. Really, I haven't been idle.  Unfortunately my blog has taken a back seat. I really need to set a specific time to write so I don't appear to be MIA.

Anyway, the kids are back in school. That means sports have started. I am proud to say that my grandson is playing soccer. He is really quite good too. He plays goalie, scares me to death, but he is fearsome. As soon as school starts my thoughts turn to fall and all things pumpkin.

I must admit, I am a Fall and Winter kind of gal. Hot weather has never been my thing. Cooler evenings, leaves turning bright colors, heartier foods, what's not to like? I don't know about you but I love to decorate my home with the seasons change too.

My latest project was creating a fall tree out of a tomato cage. I actually saw it on Pinterest. I thought what a great idea for some color on my front steps. Here it is!

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It was really easy once I figured out how to make it look full. So here is what I did!

Supplies:

  • Tomato cage
  • 1 thick rubber band
  • Pipe cleaners to match the colors in your garland (cut in halves)
  • 5 leaf garlands (available in all craft stores(
  • (2) 9 foot fall tinsel garlands
  • (1) string of 100 mini lights (I used white but orange would also be pretty)
  • Mesh ribbon to make a bow topper

Directions:

  1. Turn the tomato cage upside down. Taking the rubber band, secure the 3 loose ends together to get the tree shape.
  2. Take your tinsel garland and a leaf garland together and secure them to the top of your tomato cage tree with a pipe cleaner.
  3. Start wrapping both the garlands together and continue adding leaf garlands as needed securing in place with pipe cleaners to get the look you want.
  4. After you have wound all the garlands add your mini lights by winding them in and around.
  5. Make a bow topper and secure it to the top with a pipe cleaner.

It's that easy…..and it's pretty and festive! Honestly, I am going to make a few for Christmas. How pretty would a few of these babies be in your front yard………right???

Well, that's it for now. Thanks for reading and I will see you soon. I promise!

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

 

 

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CANNED TOMATO SALSA

 

Look out y'all….Vickie's got her canning equipment out! Shew, what an evening I had! However, I have some of the best salsa I have had in years. It's good enough to gift, if it makes it to Christmas. I'll let you know how that goes!!!

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So what do you do when life gives you tomatoes? I made salsa! Initially I was going to make sauce. Then I was doing my daily perusing through Pinterest and came across some salsa recipes. This one is a keeper; if you like salsa and have an abundant crop of tomatoes, definitely give it a try.

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Our tomatoes are absolutely beautiful this year. I can not take any of the credit for that. These are solely due to the love and affection my husband, Joe, has given them. They taste just like candy!

I love to can. I haven't done it in years, but when that canning door is opened, look out! I truly forget just how much I enjoy it. I will warn you, you may see a lot of canning posts in the next few weeks. Hopefully you will try canning yourself. It can be very addictive.

I loved this recipe because there was minimal prep time. No more blanching tomatoes and cutting an X in the bottom, no ice baths. This is pure genius! You just cut your tomatoes in half, place them face down on a baking sheet, and put them under the broiler. Once the skin is blistered you remove and cool them. Those tomato skins come right off as soon as you touch them. Trust me, this is a huge time saver. The other time saver is your beloved food processor. Throw the other vegetables in there, chop to consistency, and your off.

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So….on to the recipe. If you have any questions about any of the process or technique, send me a message and I will be happy to answer your question. If I don't have the answer we will find it together.

CANNED TOMATO SALSA

Makes 8-9 pints

Ingredients:

  • Roma tomatoes (I used 3 sheet pans, covered with non stick foil,) halved and packed as tightly as possible.
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 large green peppers, chopped
  • 5 jalapeno, seeded and membranes removed, finely chopped (leave in if you want more heat)
  • 7 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 t. ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 t. coarse ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 T pickling salt (or coarse kosher salt, NO IODINE)
  • 1/3 C Cilantro, fresh, chopped  (I only used about 1 T, we like it in small amounts)
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 1/4 C apple cider vinegar
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 12 oz tomato paste

Directions:

  1. Prepare your canner (according to instructions) so it's ready for you.
  2. Wash and clean your jars with soap and water, rinse thoroughly. Pour very hot water into them and keep them warm. (This will prevent them from cracking when you put the hot salsa in them.)
  3. Clean and wash your tomatoes. Cut them in half and place them cut side down on a tray lined with non-stick foil. Put them under the broiler and cook just until the skin blisters. Remove them and let them cool. Once cooled, remove the skin and the center hard core and membrane. Place them in a colander and mash the excess water out of them. (this is important if you don't want watery salsa). Repeat with the other two trays.
  4. Put the tomatoes in a large pot, cut them with kitchen shears to the consistency or size you want.
  5. Chop all of your vegetables in the food processor to the size you want. (Mine were all about the size of peas.) The Jalapeños and garlic were chopped very fine. Drain the water out of them in a colander, also mashed a bit with a wooden spoon to release most of the water. Add them to your pot of tomatoes.
  6. Add all of the other ingredients and stir well to combine.
  7. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  8. Using a canning funnel, ladle the mixture into your jars, leaving a 1/2 inch at the top. Wipe the rim, place a lid on top and seal with a lid ring.
  9. Using a jar lifter (available in the canning section of most stores) carefully place them into the canner, water or steam, and process for 20 minutes.
  10. Remove the jars carefully with your jar lifter and let cool to room temperature.
  11. Check all of your jars, the lid should be firm, you might even here it "Ping" as it seals itself when you let it sit to cool. (I love that sound!) If the lid moves up and down in the center it hasn't sealed correctly. Either refrigerate it or re-process it again.

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Good Luck and Happy Canning!

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

 

 

LIGHT CHICKEN QUESADILLAS

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We eat a lot of chicken. In one of my earlier posts I blogged an easy way to cook chicken so you can have it throughout the week when your pressed for time. CROCK POT CHICKEN FOR THE WEEK. As per usual I made some chicken on Monday for the week. I happened to come across this recipe by Ellie Krieger and I am so glad to share it with you.

I did make a couple of changes to it. One was using reduced fat cheese and sour cream. The other was banana peppers. We had some from our garden that needed to be used. The result was yum and added just enough heat. I also found a tortilla that is a Weight Watchers smart point count of 1. I found mine in our local Wal-Mart. They taste fantastic!

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Having the chicken already cooked makes this come together very easily. One serving is 2 quarters of a tortilla. I must admit, it was so good I ate 3 quarters. My husband loved them so I will be making these again.

If you don’t like banana peppers, feel free to leave them out. I loved the bit of tang and heat they brought to the dish. You could use a bell pepper or leave it out all together.  I would suggest prepping all of your items first because this goes very quickly once you start cooking.

LIGHT CHICKEN QUESADILLAS

7 WW Smart Points / Serving (using WW calculator)

Ingredients:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 C)
  • 1 C banana peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 C chopped, cooked, skinless, boneless, chicken breast
  • 1 t, heaping ground cumin
  • 1 t, heaping chili powder
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 2 C baby spinach leaves, slice into ribbons
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground black pepper
  • 4 (10 inch) tortillas (my recommendation is above)
  • 1 C 2% shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 1/2 C salsa (zero sugar)
  • 1/4 C reduced-fat sour cream

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Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions, peppers (if using), and mushrooms. Cook until the mushroom water is evaporated and they begin to brown, about 7 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped garlic and cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant.
  4. Add the chicken, cumin, chili powder, and oregano and stir until all the spices are incorporated.
  5. Add the spinach, salt, and pepper and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.
  6. Place a large skillet over med heat and generously spray with cooking spray of choice.
  7. Place one tortilla in the pan and top with 1/4 C of shredded cheese.
  8. Spoon 1/2 heaping C of chicken and vegetable mixture on top.
  9. Spoon another 1/4 C of cheese on top of the chicken and top with another tortilla. Mash together slightly with your spatula.
  10. Cook for about 3-4 minutes or until browned and cheese is melted. Flip over and brown the other side.
  11. Remove and repeat with the other tortillas.
  12. Slice each quesadilla into quarters. Place 2 quarters on a plate with 1 T sour cream and 2 T salsa. Garnish with parsley if desired.

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Ole’…… Dinner is served!

Ya know, this would be really good with a Marguerita.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

 

 

Light Spinach Lasagna

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OMGoodness…..creamy, cheesy, filled with spinach and packed with flavor. This is a good one and so easy you won’t believe it. Best of all it’s lighter than most lasagnas.

I made some homemade sauce last week and had enough left over to make this yummy dish. Your favorite jarred sauce would also do. In fact, an Alfredo sauce would be really good too, in place of the tomato sauce. I might have to try it. I do happen to have a light Alfredo sauce, if you can believe that. I will have to dig it out and post it for you.

I served a green salad on the side with an Italian vinagrette. It too was yummy and my whole meal was complete in an hour. Not too bad!! Here’s the recipe……….

LIGHT SPINACH LASAGNA

SERVES:12

Ingredients:

  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1 T.)
  • 1 t of dried thyme or 2 t of fresh thyme, minced
  • 8 oz fresh spinach
  • 2 lbs part skim ricotta (drained overnight in the fridge)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 t of nutmeg
  • A squeeze of lemon juice or to taste
  • 9 no-boil lasagna noodles (I like Barilla)
  • 24 oz of tomato sauce of choice (or substitue Alfredo Sauce)
  • 2 C of 2% shredded mozzarella

 

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and the thyme and saute’ for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the spinach, saute for 2 minutes more and take off the heat.
  4. In a large bowl,, combine the ricotta, egg, salt, nutmeg, and lemon juice to taste. Add the spinach and stir to combine.
  5. Spread a small amount of sauce of choice into the bottom of a 9×13 casserole. Layer in the following manner…..3 lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the cheese and spinach mixture, 1/3 of the mozzarella and repeat two more times.
  6. Pour a half cup of water over the top. Cover it tightly with non-stick foil.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes.
  8. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes.
  9. Let it stand for about 10 minutes then cut and serve.

I guarantee you will keep this in your pasta rotation for a while. Hope you enjoy it!

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

Feels like Fall…

What a lovely weekend! The air had a hint of coolness and the clouds looked like cotton candy.  I know it's sad for most people when summer is over. I must admit, I am really looking forward to Fall.

We went to dinner with friends by boat Saturday night. What a glorious evening it was! With the compliment of a full moon, it could not have been more perfect. Our excursion took us to Oxford. A little town, with a lot of history, and off the beaten path. Boaters and vacationers alike descend on this little town to enjoy it's charm and hospitality.

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Once called Schooners, now the new Capsize restaurant. It has been redecorated inside but has the same feel. It boasts, white leather sofas inside for intimate dining. It also has a large dining room, also decorated in white. We chose to dine outside so we could enjoy the evening air. There is something special about dining on the water in the moonlight.

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We shared an appetizer called the Sushi un-roll. What a fantastic appetizer. Fresh tuna, on a bed of rice, with avocado, cucumber, and a special sauce. I enjoyed the Korean barbeque shrimp tacos. Absolutely fantastic! Someone else got the mussels and raved about them. While I didn't try them I can tell you they were fragrant and I noticed she didn't leave even one. It was a huge bowl with a large loaf of bread on the side for dipping. What can I say, the food was to die for. I will definitely go back.

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By boat or by car, Oxford, Maryland is a great place to visit. Many people visit and never leave after they fall in love with it's quaint charm. It comes equipped with it's own working Ferry that can transport you to St. Michaels, Maryland. Did I say quaint??  There are many other dining options. I do highly recommend trying Capsize, you won't be dissapointed.

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Come visit Oxford, Maryland. You may fall in love and never leave!

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

 

Zucchini Bread

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. Given the fact that everybodys gardens should be flourishing with ripe fruit, I thought this one was appropriate. By the way, did I mention how hot it’s been. It’s brutal here!

I met with an old friend that I haven’t seen in many years. She arrived with zucchini from her garden. “Would you like to have some?” she said. Of course, the answer was yes. Especially since we didn’t plant any. I took a few and immediately came home and went to work.

One of the zucchini was extremely large. The only think I like to do with those is grate them. They make excellent zucchini patties. They also work well with my zucchini bread recipe. I’ve been making this bread for years and I don’t quite remember where this recipe originated from. I can say it’s a wonderful recipe. If you find yourself with an abundance of zucchini, give it a try.

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ZUCCHINI BREAD

(Makes 2 loaves)

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 C brown sugar
  • 1 C oil
  • 2 C flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 2 C grated zucchini
  • 1 C chopped nuts *optional (you can use your favorite or leave them out)

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Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease 2 loaf pans and line with parchment greasing parchment .
  3. Beat eggs, brown sugar, and oil together.
  4. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg together.
  5. Add sifted ingredients to the egg mixture and mix until well blended.
  6. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.
  7. Add zucchini and chopped nuts, if using. Stir into the batter with a wooden spoon.
  8. Divide the batter into the two prepared loaf pans.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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I have a ton of tomatoes coming on the vine. Stay tuned……..I am going to do some canning this year. I might even try my hand at salsa.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

 

HAPPY FATHERS DAY

On this Fathers Day I would like to honor all the Dads, Grandfathers, Stepfathers and father figures. It’s not an easy job! As they say, somebody’s got to do it! Here are a few of my favorites.

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I actually live with one that is pretty awesome. He is a fantastic father, stepfather, and grandfather. He has at times been a father figure when there has been a need. I have often wondered where he gets his calm and reserve from. He somehow manages to make it look effortless. I thank God every day that he is the father of our family.

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Some days you have to put the cape on and be Super Man. Every day you have to be a role model and set the example. After all, how would future fathers and mothers know how to step into their roles?

You guys are awesome! There is no way we could do it without you. You have the ability to make us feel safe, loved, and taken care of. Your footsteps are hard to fit into, but somehow you always show the way. It’s an endless job with a major responsibilty that is never ending. It has to be exhausting!

So……on this Fathers Day, know how much you are loved and admired. I hope all of you have a wonderful day and are shown just how much you are appreciated. Put your cape on today and soar high. Take a nap, drink a beer, be with the ones you love, but above all, continue being Super Dads.

We Love You to the moon and back!

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

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